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1773. Goldsmith, however, was often very fortunate in his witty contests, even:
. Sir Joshua Reynolds was in
Johnson, though remarkable for his great variety of composition, never exercised his talents in fable, except we allow his beautiful tale published in Mrs. Williams's Miscellanies to be of that species. I have, however, found among his manuscript collections the following sketch of one:
“ Glow-worm lying in the garden saw a candle in a neighbouring palace, and complained of the littleness of his own light ;-another observed—wait a little ;—soon dark ;-have outlasted mona [many] of these glaring lights which only are brighter as they haste to nothing."
On Thursday, April 29, I dined with him at General Oglethorpe's, where
The custom of eating dogs at Otaheite being mentioned, Goldsmith
Nay, Sir, it is a fact well authenticated.” THRALE.
You may do it in my stable if you will.” Johnson. “ Nay, Sir, I would
1773 not have him prove it. If he is content to take his information from others,
Ætat. 64. he may get through his book with little trouble, and without much endangering his reputation. But if he makes experiments for so comprehensive a book as his, there would be no end to them ; his erroneous assertions would then fall upon himself; and he might be blamed for not having made experiments as to every particular.”
The character of Mallet having been introduced, and spoken of Nightingly by Goldsmith; Johnson.“ Why, Sir, Mallet had talents enough to keep his literary reputation alive as long as he himself lived ; and that, let me tell
is a good deal.” GOLDSMITH. “But I cannot agree that it was so. His literary reputation was dead long before his natural death. I consider an authour's literary reputation to be alive only while his name will ensure a good price for his copy
from the booksellers. I will get you (to Johnson,) a hundred guineas
you shall write, if you put your name to it.”
Goldsmith having said, that Garrick's compliment to the Queen, which he
Prefens Divus habebitur. Augustus.' And as to meanness, (rising into warmth,) how is it mean in a player,—a showman,-a fellow who exhibits himself for a shilling, to flatter his Queen? The attempt, indeed, was dangerous ; for if it had missed, what became of Garrick, and what became of the Queen? As Sir William Temple says of a great General, it is necessary not only that his designs should be formed in a masterly manner, but that they should be attended with success. Sir, it is right, at a time when the Royal Family is not generally liked, to let it be seen that the people like at least one of them.” Sir Joshua ReynoLDS. “ I do not perceive why the profession of a
player should be despised; for the great and ultimate end of all the employÆtat. 74. ments of mankind is to produce amusement. Garrick produces more amuse
ment than any body.” Boswell. “ You say, Dr. Johnson, that Garrick exhibits himself for a shilling. In this respect he is only on a footing with a lawyer who exhibits himself for his fee, and even will maintain any nonsense or absurdity, if the case requires it. Garrick refuses a play or a part which he does not like; a lawyer never refuses.” Johnson. “Why, Sir, what does this prove? only that a lawyer is worse. Bofwell is now like Jack in 'The Tale of a Tub,' who, when he is puzzled by an argument, hangs himself. He thinks I shall cut him down, but I'll let him hang,” (laughing vociferously.) Sir Joshua Reynolds. “Mr. Boswell thinks that the profession of a lawyer being unquestionably honourable, if he can shew the profession of a player to be more honourable, he proves his
argument.” On Friday, April 30, I dined with him at Mr. Beauclerk's, where were Lord Charlemont, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and some more members of the Literary Club, whom he had obligingly invited to meet me, as I was this evening to be balloted for as candidate for admission into that distinguished society. Johnson had done me the honour to propose me, and Beauclerk was very zealous for me.
Goldsmith being mentioned ;-Johnson.“ It is amazing how little Goldsmith knows. He seldom comes where he is not more ignorant than any one else.” Sir Joshua Reynolds. “Yet there is no man whose company is more liked.” Johnson. “ To be sure, Sir. When people find a man of the most distinguished abilities as a writer, their inferiour while he is with them, it must be highly gratifying to them. What Goldsmith comically says of himself is very true,- he always gets the better when he argues alone ;-meaning, that he is master of a subject in his study, and can write well upon it; but when he comes into company, grows confused, and unable to talk. Take him as a poet, his ‘Traveller' is a very fine performance; aye, and so is his · Deserted Village,' were it not sometimes too much the echo of his « Traveller.' Whether, indeed, we take him as a poet, -as a comick writer,—or as an historian, he stands in the first class.” Boswell.“ An historian! My dear Sir, you surely will not rank his compilation of the Roman History with the works of other historians of this age?” Johnson. “ Why, who are before him?" Boswell. “Hume,-Robertson,-Lord Lyttelton.” Johnson. (His antipathy to the Scotch beginning to rise,) “ I have not read Hume; but, doubtless, Goldsmith's History is better than the verbiage of Robertson, or the foppery of Dalrymple.” Boswell, “Will you not admit the superiority of Robertson,
in whose History we find such penetration,—such painting ?” Johnson.
You must look upon
Besides, Sir, it is the great excellence of a writer to put into his book
Goldsmith tells you shortly all you want to know: Robertson detains you a great deal too long. No man will read Robertson's cumbrous detail a second time; but Goldsmith's plain narrative will please again and again. I would say to Robertson what an old tutor of a College said to one of his pupils : 'Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' Goldsmith's abridgement is better than that of Lucius Florus or Eutropius; and I will venture to say, that if you compare him with Vertot, in the same places of the Roman History, you will find that he excels Vertot. Sir, he has the art of compiling, and of saying every thing he has to say in a pleasing manner. He is now writing a Natural History, and will make it as entertaining as, a Persian Tale."
I cannot dismiss the present topick without observing, that it is probable
Johnson. “ I remember once being with Goldsmith in Westminster-abbey..
• Forfitan et noftrum nomen miscebitur istis?.'
Forsitan et nostrum nomen miscebitur istis 8.”
7 Ovid, de Art. Amand. l. iii. v, 13.
1773. Johnson praised John Bunyan highly. “His · Pilgrim's Progress' has Ætat. 64. great merit, both for invention, imagination, and the conduct of the story;
and it has had the best evidence of its merit, the general and continued approbation of mankind. Few books, I believe, have had a more extensive sale. It is remarkable, that it begins very much like the poem of Dante; yet there was no translation of Dante when Bunyan wrote. There is reason to think that he had read Spencer.
A proposition which had been agitated, that monuments to eminent persons should, for the time to come, be erected in St. Paul's church as well as in Westminster-abbey, was mentioned; and it was asked, who should be honoured by having his monument first erected there. Somebody suggested Pope. Johnson. “ Why, Sir, as Pope was a Roman Catholick, I would not have his to be first. I think Milton's rather should have the precedence. I think more highly of him now than I did at twenty. There is more thinking in him and in Butler than in any of our poets."
Some of the company expressed a wonder why the authour of fo excellent a book as “ The whole Duty of Man” should conceal himself. Johnson. “ There may be different reasons assigned for this, any one of which would be very fufficient. He may have been a clergyman, and may have thought that his religious counsels would have less weight when known to come from a man whose profession was Theology. He may have been a man whose practice was not suitable to his principles; so that his character might injure the effect of his book, which he had written in a season of penitence. Or he may have been a man of rigid self-denial, so that he would have no reward for his pious labours while in this world, but refer it all to a future state.”
The gentlemen went away to their club, and I was left at Beauclerk's till the fate of my election should be announced to me. In a short time I received the agreeable intelligence that I was chosen. I hastened to the place of meeting, and was introduced to such a society as can seldom be found. Mr. Edmund Burke, whom I then faw for the first time, and whose splendid talents had long made me ardently wish for his acquaintance ; Dr. Nugent, Mr. Garrick, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. (now Sir William,) Jones, and the company with whom I had dined. Upon my entrance, Johnson placed himself behind a chair, on which he leaned as on a desk or pulpit, and with humorous formality gave me a Charge, pointing out the conduct expected from me as a good member of this club.
Goldsmith produced some very absurd verses which had been publickly recited to an audience for money. Johnson. “I can match this nonsense.